A Pixelated Week at Forest Home

On Friday last week we returned from Forest Home, our high school summer camp, where we spent an amazing and exhausting week learning with and loving on our students. It's always good to be at Forest Home and the staff there always does an incredible job. They're such an amazing ministry team. What's perhaps the most incredible thing about the environment they've created up there is the openness and diversity, the atmosphere of welcome and community even amongst very different churches with very different leadership. I have seen some camps and conference fail at this on both ends. Some camps or conferences simply don't show sensitivity to any theological spectrum or diversity of thought. They assume that their understanding of "gospel" is THE understanding or they just don't care if anyone disagrees with them. On the other end, there are organizations which try so hard to celebrate diversity and inclusivity that they somehow fail at drawing anyone who thinks outside their agenda, they fail at drawing anyone more conservative than they are. But at Forest Home they've drawn all sorts of different churches and have represented a wide theological spectrum seemingly without effort. They simply focus on Christ and on setting up churches to have good conversations with their students and they've done so with such sensitivity that they've welcomed all without losing the sharpness of their message.

The theme this year was all around the life of David from the book of Samuel. At the high school camp their theme was "A Pixelated life," which was at least partly inspired by Shane Hipps' book Flickering Pixels (a personal favorite of mine). Of all the different directions this theme could have and did go, the theme dealt with what amounted to a narrative approach to understanding God's relationship with us. As with any narrative approach to biblical exegesis or theology, every individual "pixel" is to be understood as a part of a larger unit. Each passage is part of a larger story and each doctrine is part of a larger theological framework. In this case, each story of David--the good, the bad, and the ugly--is just a pixel in a larger picture. The same goes for us. When God sees us, God does not only see dark pixels. We are not defined by the dark parts of us, the extensions of ourselves we'd rather not discuss. We are not defined only in terms of the bright pixels, that which we can achieve and accomplish. The Lord looks at the heart. God sees the whole picture of who we are and we are invited into the freedom of that knowledge.

This is by no means an attempt to sum up the camp theme... I think you sorta have to have been there. The theme took us to all sorts of different places (appropriate to the theme, if you ask me). We were challenged to think about the ways we are affected by technology and the fronts we put on through social media. We were challenged to see ourselves as a pixel in a larger picture being created by God. I was even reminded of an illustration that I first heard from N.T. Wright.

Wright talks of when all God's work will come to fruition. It will be like a giant cathedral, says Wright, that God will pick up and put together at just the last minute. And when we see it, it will be gloriously unfamiliar to us. But just then we will notice a familiar stone in one of it's walls. "Why, that's the stone I was carving throughout my life. There it is with all its flaws and all its beautiful craftsmanship." God work will be God's alone but it will be made up of all the work of all God's people. The story our life tells, the work to which we dedicate ourselves is and will be a pixel in the big picture of God's restored world.
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